25 Years

Interdisciplinary Doctoral Fellowships

The Graduate School, on behalf of the Provost’s Interdisciplinary Team, will award Interdisciplinary Doctoral Fellowships (IDF) for 2019-20. The Interdisciplinary Center for the Study of Global Change (ICGC) is one of the sites eligible to host students for these fellowships.

The IDF awards will support outstanding Graduate School students whose current or proposed dissertation topic is interdisciplinary and who would benefit from interaction with faculty at an interdisciplinary research center or institute. These awards are intended to provide a unique study opportunity for the very best students whose research and scholarly interests complement those of the selected center or institute and its faculty. The student has the option of designating the center or institute that s/he believes is the best match with the student’s current or proposed dissertation topic, contingent upon a faculty member’s willingness to work with the student during the Fellowship year.

For students interested in the Interdisciplinary Center for the Study of Global Change (ICGC) as host for their IDF, they must demonstrate how being hosted at ICGC, and working with one of its affiliated graduate faculty members, would enhance the interdisciplinary nature of the thesis work. ICGC will give priority to students who do not already hold ICGC Fellowships.

Application Process

Deadline to apply: NOON, Friday, November 16, 2018, via an online form on the Graduate School page linked below.

Internal Deadline for 2019-20 Applications: October 22, 2018 (all your materials must be sent to ICGC as indicated in step 2 below by this date)

  1. Review the full instructions including eligibility requirements on the Graduate School IDF page
  2. Please submit all application materials by email to icgc@umn.edu. The subject line should read “IDF Application: Student Name” and materials should be submitted together in a single PDF. The deadline for sending the email with attached application materials is 4pm October 22, 2018

    You have two options for submitting materials. The preferred method is for the student’s Director of Graduate Studies (DGS) or other departmental staff to compile and send all of the materials directly to ICGC. Or, the student may send the proposal, CV, transcript, and IRB/IACUC (if applicable), and ask the DGS to send the letters of support from an adviser and a faculty mentor separately. If the application is being sent in two parts, please indicate this in the body of the email. In either case, all materials should be submitted as a single PDF per email. This must be sent to ICGC by 4pm October 22, 2018.  The email subject line should read "IDF Application:  NAME."

  3. ICGC will review IDF applications and notify applicants of a decision by early November 2018. ICGC will provide a letter of support to the Director of Graduate Studies for students it recommends for these fellowships prior to the November 16, 2018 Graduate School deadline.

Please contact ICGC Director Karen Brown with questions about this process. You are encouraged to contact ICGC prior to the deadline date to discuss your interest in the fellowship at ICGC or to discuss possible faculty mentors.

ICGC IDF Fellows

Williams, Elizabeth

Visiting Scholar 

2014 Interdisciplinary Doctoral Fellow

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Elizabeth Williams was raised in Western North Carolina, and received a BA in History from Smith College in 2008. Her work examines constructions of race and sexuality in colonial Kenya, focusing on how narratives about normativity and deviance were used to maintain white supremacy and exclude Africans and Asians from power. Located in the History Department, she also has a minor in Feminist Studies from the Department of Gender, Women and Sexuality Studies and is a member of the Graduate Interdisciplinary Group in Sexuality Studies and the University of Minnesota. She is also an affiliated researcher with the Department of Archaeology and History at the University of Nairobi, where she is finishing up her field work.

Schaffauser , Agnes

Visiting Scholar 

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Agnès Schaffauser is a Ph.D. Candidate in the Department of French and Italian at the University of Minnesota and teaches beginning, intermediate and upper-level French courses at the University of Minnesota. She has also taught French in Wales, England, at the University of Montana and at Hamline University in St Paul. In summer 2019, she will teach an African Literature class (AFRO 3625W) on “Women Writers of Africa and the African Diaspora”.


She obtained her BA in English at Paris VIII University, her MA in American Literature at Toulouse-Le Mirail University and completed coursework at the University of Sussex in Brighton, UK. She completed an MA in French and Francophone Literature at the University of Minnesota with a concentration on African-American and African Studies. She is currently specializing in Francophone postcolonial literature with an emphasis on Maghrebi literature. Her research interests also include gender studies and psychoanalysis. 


For her thesis, she will focus on the figure of the migrant and representations of migration in literature and the arts, especially in novels, comic books, films and documentaries. Her research has been funded through the Department of French and Italian, the College of Liberal Arts Graduate Research Partnership Program (2016), the Renaud Graduate fellowship (2018) and the Interdisciplinary Dissertation Fellowship hosted at ICGC (2018-19). 


She published her first article “‘The Toxic Father’ and ‘the Curing Daughter’ in Marie NDiaye’s Three Strong Women” in The French Review (2017) and is currently working on putting together a collected volume on Franco-Algerian writer Salim Bachi.


Agnes is in residence as ICGC's Interdisciplinary Doctoral Fellow through Spring semester, 2019. 



Saxena, Akshya

Visiting Scholar 

2013 Interdisciplinary Doctoral Fellow

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As an Interdisciplinary Doctoral Fellow at ICGC, Akshya Saxena is working on her dissertation, Vernacular Englishes: Language, Translation and Democratic Politics in Post-Liberalization India. Her dissertation develops the radical potential of critical translation theory to contribute to the ongoing theorization of South Asian democracy. Hers is the first study that examines the vexed position of English in post-independence India and the language’s new literary and political force. She argues that it is no longer possible to view English as merely a colonial legacy to be opposed or simply a language of global capital to be embraced. Her work contends that contemporary language politics in India hinge on categories of gender, class and caste, where the foreign provenance of English invests these matrices with newer (often, unpredictable) political meanings. Akshya Saxena received her BA in English Literature from Lady Shri Ram College (University of Delhi) and her MA in English Literature from Jawaharlal Nehru University in India. She entered the department of Cultural Studies and Comparative Literature at University of Minnesota in 2009 with a three-year Graduate School Fellowship. Akshya is also a practicing translator. She has translated Art Speigelman's Maus and a selection of Ashis Nandy's writings into Hindi for SARAI-Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, New Delhi, India.

O'Leary, Heather

Graduate Instructor 

2012 Interdisciplinary Doctoral Fellow

2012 Interdisciplinary Doctoral Fellow
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Heather O'Leary is an Interdisciplinary Doctoral Fellow in residence at the ICGC from the Department of Anthropology.  Ms. O'Leary received her A.B. in Sociology from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor and earned her A.M. at the University of Chicago.  Her research is focused on the disparity of water access in Delhi, India.

Ms. O'Leary received grants from the Fulbright Foundation, the Wenner-Gren Foundation and the University of Minnesota to fully fund her eighteen months of ethnographic fieldwork in Delhi.  Previous phases of her research were also supported by the U.S. Department of Education through Foreign Language and Area Studies (FLAS) fellowships, and the University of Minnesota Graduate Research Partnership Program (GRPP).

Ms. O'Leary's dissertation research explores the disparity of water access through the perspective of urban domestic workers.  These workers, with little remuneration for their work, often live in informal "slum" communities adjacent to the homes of their employers.  Like many of the marginalized  residents who struggle to meet minimum consumption requirements for drinking water, domestic workers must also make difficult decisions about using water for the most basic household chores.  Yet, many of these workers have been exposed to and trained in the aesthetics of modernization, and experience tension over meeting high standards of cleanliness, purity and order with limited resources.  Moreover, their active participation as agents of purification in upper-middle class homes distance them from traditional, informal and peer networks of water sourcing, and as a result they are excluded from both formal and informal networks of water access. Her research seeks to elucidate the dynamics of water exchange amongst these marginalized residents by employing theories from economic anthropology, environmental anthropology and anthropology of development.  Her data on the local structures of development, class privilege and resource management can give broader insight on the growing global socio-political problems of urban water scarcity.  Her conclusions can be applied not only to water disparity, but they have wider implications on issues of resource allocation around the world.

DSSC 8111 coordinator, Approaches to Knowledge and Truth: Ways of Knowing in Development Studies and Social Change, Topic: Global Food Security

Kindervater, Garnet

Visiting Scholar 

2012 Interdisciplinary Doctoral Fellow

Garnet Kindervater earned a B.A. with distinction in Critical, Cultural and Political Theory from Ohio State University, and holds two master’s degrees (Comparative Studies in Discourse and Society; Political Science) from the University of Minnesota, where he remains as a doctoral candidate in the Department of Political Science. He is at work on a dissertation entitled, "Politics of the Highly Improbable: Security, Anticipation, Catastrophe," which outlines the contours of political rationality devoted to future catastrophic events. His writing and research scrutinize central questions in the study of human security under the light of materialist traditions in modern Western philosophy, the history of political thought, and international theory. Resulting from this research are essays that mobilize theories and philosophies of time, organization, rationality, and power in a reassessment of how human life persists as a category of political and economic value. He has published recently on the philosopher Gilles Deleuze, and he has essays forthcoming on subjects ranging from maritime piracy, sovereignty and global economic security; modern governance and catastrophe; as well as on the related concepts of human life, power, and speculative futures.

Huang, Mingwei


2016 Interdisciplinary Doctoral Fellow

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Mingwei Huang is a PhD Candidate in American Studies with a concentration in Feminist and Critical Sexuality Studies, and teaches in the Department of Writing Studies. Embracing interdisciplinary approaches, my research interests broadly include Afro-Asia, the global south, south-south flows, contemporary empire, cultural studies, visual culture, popular culture, the anthropologies of capitalism and globalization, Johannesburg, Chinese diaspora, and economic informality and the illicit. My research has been funded through the Department of American Studies, the Social Science Research Council Dissertation Proposal Development Fellowship (2013), the College of Liberal Arts Graduate Research Partnership Program (2014), the Wenner-Gren Foundation Dissertation Fieldwork Grant (2015), and the Interdisciplinary Dissertation Fellowship hosted at ICGC (2016-17). 
My dissertation "Plastic Empire, Empire of Plastic: Contemporary Chinese Capital and Migration in South Africa" uses ethnography and visual analysis to explore transnational flows of people, capital, and goods in contemporary “Chinese Johannesburg.” I ask, how do the geopolitical relations between China and South Africa socially, affectively, culturally, and politically manifest on the ground? How do race, nationality, gender, and desire shape Chinese and African experiences, and the infrastructures and aesthetics of goods and money? Plastic as heuristic device and trope unifies these multiple inquiries: the plasticity of hybrid cultural forms and socialities; the fakeness and cheapness of goods (“empire of plastic”); the toxicity, artificiality, malleability, and breakability of political ties and flexible imperial forms (“plastic empire”).    

Throughout 2013-15 I undertook fifteen months of fieldwork in South Africa, most of it based in "Chinese Johannesburg," referring to Chinatown and "China malls" (retail and wholesale shopping centers for Chinese imported goods). My participant-observation included living in Chinatown and at the mall's on-site apartments, in addition to working at a women's clothing and a party goods shop. While in Johannesburg, I was in residence at the Centre for Indian Studies in Africa (CISA) at Wits, and have presented my work at CISA, the Wits Institute for Social and Economic Research, and UWC's Centre for Humanities Research. I am interested in artist and media collaborations in Johannesburg; you can hear one of a podcast I recorded for the China-Africa Project here.

Frye, Tim


2017 Interdisciplinary Doctoral Fellow

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Tim Frye is a Ph.D. student in the Department of Spanish and Portuguese Studies at the University of Minnesota. He obtained his BA in Psychology and Spanish Studies from the University of Minnesota, and completed coursework at the Pontifícia Universidad Católica de Valparaíso, Chile, and the Pontifícia Universidade Católica de São Paulo, Brazil. He completed his MA in Hispanic and Lusophone Literatures, Cultures, and Linguistics from the University of Minnesota, where he began his research on the intersections of literature, the environment, and human rights in Latin America. As an Interdisciplinary Doctoral Fellow at ICGC, he builds on an interest in large infrastructure, megaprojects, and the writers who unpack, reinterpret, and contest their relation to the environment. His work compares 20th century writers from three distinct and interrelated regions (Panama, Nicaragua, and Amazonian Brazil) that have, and continue to undergo colossal movements of land and water due to these megaprojects: the Panama Canal, the Gran Canal Interoceánico de Nicaragua, and the Zona Franca in Manaus, Brazil. Tim continues to conduct fieldwork and archival work in Panama, Nicaragua, and Amazonian Brazil, collaborating with scholars and artists who document in disparate ways the effects of megaprojects on local communities.

Visiting Term: Academic Year 2017-18

Batra, Lalit

Visiting Scholar 

2015 Interdisciplinary Doctoral Fellow

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Lalit Batra is a doctoral candidate at the department of Geography, Environment and Society. He grew up in New Delhi, India and received his BA from Delhi University and MA in Sociology from Pondicherry University, India. His dissertation research interrogates cultural politics of sanitation in India by exploring how Delhi's wastewater flows are enabled, interrupted and regulated by social reproduction of a caste-based sanitation labor regime.